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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Out-of-touch peer underlines case for reform

Yet more evidence in the Times that a lot of peers in the House of Lords are out-of-touch with ordinary people with the claim by former Tory treasurer, Lord Farmer that the public would support higher pay for peers if the House of Lords had better spin doctors:

In a debate on improving the official House of Lords press office, the founder of the RK Capital Management hedge fund said that better understanding of the work of the upper house could lead to “public support for higher daily allowances”.

Suggesting that the allowance compared favourably with the daily rate for a plumber or mechanic, he said that he does not claim it “because I do not need to”. However, some peers do depend on the £300 allowance “to make ends meet” because they “give so much of their time”, Lord Farmer, 71, added.

He warned of the damage caused by caricatures of “ermine-clad peers swilling champagne and swanning around your lordships’ house at the taxpayer’s expense”.

“That may sell newspapers but it does not give anything of the true facts,” he said. “A highly distorted myth is relentlessly peddled of everyone with their snouts in the trough, greedily pocketing £300 a day for turning up.” Lord Farmer, who is worth £150 million according to the Sunday Times Rich List, said that more should be done by the press office to publicise the work of peers changing laws and debating policy.

“If this were made clear to the public, who of course pay garage and plumbers’ bills per hour or per day, they might think the daily fee is in fact rather modest and even inadequate, particularly if they understand that there are many peers whose work here restricts their earning opportunities elsewhere,” he said. He called for a proactive unit that “would, like a think tank, tweet and otherwise publicise” when the Lords overruled the government or altered legislation.

“There is so much to shout about, every day, that would actually encourage all who pay taxes, whether individuals or businesses, to see that they are in fact getting great value for money. We might even see public support for higher daily allowances, which I would endorse wholeheartedly, although that is a subject for another debate.”

There are of course some valid points there, particularly about the commitment of some peers to the work in the House of Lords. But the best way to resolve this, and to help those of Lord Farmer understand better what people really want from the upper house, would be to cut their numbers drastically and have a fully elected second chamber.
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